Oregon Ranchers, Environmentalist Groups Reach Deal on Wolves

Oregon Ranchers, Environmentalist Groups Reach Deal on Wolves
July 4, 2013

Oregon cattle ranchers and environmental groups reached a settlement that clarifies when ranchers can kill wolves that are preying on livestock.

The settlement is in response to a lawsuit filed in 2011 by three environmental activist groups after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) issued a kill order for two wolves belonging to the Imnaha Pack.

Legislation Supports Agreement
The agreement creates a new rulebook, backed by legislation, which negates the court case. The Senate Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office announced the settlement on May 24. The Oregon House and Senate passed legislation in June codifying into state law the terms of the wolf management agreement. Kitzhaber said he would sign the bill into law, though he had yet to do so when this article went to press. 

“We are pleased the parties were able to come to an agreement,” Ron Anglin, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife administrator, said in a media statement. “We look forward to finalizing both the rules and the legislation so the case can be fully settled and we can move forward on wolf conservation and management.”

Lawsuit Challenged Livestock Protection
Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit under claims the kill order violated the state’s Endangered Species Act and would endanger the Imnaha Pack’s viability. The Imnaha Pack is the first to form in Oregon from wolves crossing the Snake River from Idaho.

The Oregon Court of Appeals prohibited the state from killing wolves until the lawsuit was resolved, making Oregon the only state in which authorities could not kill wolves that prey on livestock.

The Oregon Senate on June 27 unanimously approved House Bill 3452, which gives legislative weight to the settlement agreement. Under the bill, wolves are protected from ranchers unless a rancher catches a particular wolf in the act of wounding or killing livestock. Wolves identified as engaging in “chronic predation” may also be killed, but only after ranchers attempt to deter such wolves through nonlethal means.

“This is only one tool in the management toolbox to assist the State of Oregon in our attempts to reintroduce the species in the environment. As such, I am very pleased with the bill’s passage and the prospects of limiting the amount of predation on cattle and other domestic livestock,” said Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton), who sponsored the House bill.

Pendleton said the bill strikes a commonsense balance between protecting livestock and protecting wolf populations.

Ranchers and environmental activists reached agreement supporting the legislation. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association called the settlement a “reasonable compromise.” Sen. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), one of the legislature’s most outspoken supporters of environmental activist groups, applauded the bill as “a historic settlement” of long-running tension between ranchers and environmental groups.

The ODFW is in charge of identifying wolves that are believed to be frequent predators of domestic livestock. Before ODFW can issue a kill order, landowners must enact nonlethal measures to rectify the situation. The new rules also give greater authority to ranchers to kill wolves that are chasing livestock after the ranchers meet certain conditions.

Alyssa Carducci (ad.carducci@gmail.com) writes from Tampa, Florida.